New T rex evidence surprises

2012-04-05 08:24
This photo shows that a new species of tyrannosaur, Y huali, it had feathers on its tail. (Zang Hailong, Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, AP)

This photo shows that a new species of tyrannosaur, Y huali, it had feathers on its tail. (Zang Hailong, Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles - The discovery of a giant meat-eating dinosaur sporting a downy coat has some scientists reimagining the look of Tyrannosaurus rex.

With a killer jaw and sharp claws, T rex has long been depicted in movies and popular culture as having scaly skin. But the discovery of an earlier relative suggests the king of dinosaurs may have had a softer side.

The evidence comes from the unearthing of a new tyrannosaur species in north-eastern China that lived 60 million years before T rex. The fossil record preserved remains of fluffy down, making it the largest feathered dinosaur ever found.

If a T rex relative had feathers, why not T rex? Scientists said the evidence is trending in that direction.

"People need to start changing their image of T rex," said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who was not part of the discovery team.

New species

Much smaller dinosaurs with primitive feathers have been excavated in recent years, but this is the first direct sign of a huge, shaggy dinosaur. Scientists have long debated whether gigantic dinosaurs lost their feathers the bigger they got or were just not as extensively covered.

The new tyrannosaur species, Yutyrannus huali, is described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. Its name is a blend of Latin and Mandarin, which translates to "beautiful feathered tyrant".

A team of Chinese and Canadian scientists analysed three well-preserved fossil skeletons - an adult and two juveniles - recovered from a quarry in China's Liaoning province by a private fossil dealer. Most striking were remains of down-like feathers on the neck and arm. Though coverage was patchy, scientists suspected the species had feathers over much of its body.

It would have felt like touching "long, thick fur", co-author Corwin Sullivan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in an e-mail. Another scientist, Thomas Holtz jnr at the University of Maryland, compared it to the feathers of an emu.

The creature lived about 125 million years ago. At 10m long and weighing a ton, Y huali would have reached T rex's chest.

Instead, the dino-fuzz likely provided insulation, though camouflage or showing it off like a peacock could not be ruled out.

Since T rex is related to this newfound feathery species, chances are good that T rex was feathered as well, scientists said. Just don't mistake fuzzy for cuddly. The predatory dinosaur would have been just as menacing.

Having feathers "doesn't make it less threatening or less fearsome", said Holtz, who had no role in the research.

Matthew Lamanna, assistant curator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said T rex most likely was covered in both feathers and scales.

Whatever the coverage of feathers, the latest fossil finds "force us to conceive of tyrannosauroids in a new way," said Julia Clarke at the University of Texas at Austin.
Read more on:    palaeontology

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.